Hot Best Seller

Edison

Availability: Ready to download

From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history. Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incand From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history. Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world--already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other revolutionary devices--that it cast a shadow over his later achievements. In all, this near-deaf genius ("I haven't heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old") patented 1,093 inventions, not including others, such as the X-ray fluoroscope, that he left unlicensed for the benefit of medicine. One of the achievements of this staggering new biography, the first major life of Edison in more than twenty years, is that it portrays the unknown Edison--the philosopher, the futurist, the chemist, the botanist, the wartime defense adviser, the founder of nearly 250 companies--as fully as it deconstructs the Edison of mythological memory. Edmund Morris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, brings to the task all the interpretive acuity and literary elegance that distinguished his previous biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Ludwig van Beethoven. A trained musician, Morris is especially well equipped to recount Edison's fifty-year obsession with recording technology and his pioneering advances in the synchronization of movies and sound. Morris sweeps aside conspiratorial theories positing an enmity between Edison and Nikola Tesla and presents proof of their mutually admiring, if wary, relationship. Enlightened by seven years of research among the five million pages of original documents preserved in Edison's huge laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey, and privileged access to family papers still held in trust, Morris is also able to bring his subject to life on the page--the adored yet autocratic and often neglectful husband of two wives and father of six children. If the great man who emerges from it is less a sentimental hero than an overwhelming force of nature, driven onward by compulsive creativity, then Edison is at last getting his biographical due.


Compare

From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history. Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incand From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history. Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world--already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other revolutionary devices--that it cast a shadow over his later achievements. In all, this near-deaf genius ("I haven't heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old") patented 1,093 inventions, not including others, such as the X-ray fluoroscope, that he left unlicensed for the benefit of medicine. One of the achievements of this staggering new biography, the first major life of Edison in more than twenty years, is that it portrays the unknown Edison--the philosopher, the futurist, the chemist, the botanist, the wartime defense adviser, the founder of nearly 250 companies--as fully as it deconstructs the Edison of mythological memory. Edmund Morris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, brings to the task all the interpretive acuity and literary elegance that distinguished his previous biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Ludwig van Beethoven. A trained musician, Morris is especially well equipped to recount Edison's fifty-year obsession with recording technology and his pioneering advances in the synchronization of movies and sound. Morris sweeps aside conspiratorial theories positing an enmity between Edison and Nikola Tesla and presents proof of their mutually admiring, if wary, relationship. Enlightened by seven years of research among the five million pages of original documents preserved in Edison's huge laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey, and privileged access to family papers still held in trust, Morris is also able to bring his subject to life on the page--the adored yet autocratic and often neglectful husband of two wives and father of six children. If the great man who emerges from it is less a sentimental hero than an overwhelming force of nature, driven onward by compulsive creativity, then Edison is at last getting his biographical due.

30 review for Edison

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    History is full of people whose lives have impacted mine in some form or another. While I have always loved reading biographies, I find particular interest in people whose names I know but whose lives remain a mystery to me. While the name Thomas Edison has always been synonymous with the invention of the lightbulb, there is much more to the man’s life. Pulitzer-prize winning author, Edmund Morris, takes the reader through the life and times of this most complex man. While the lightbulb was sure History is full of people whose lives have impacted mine in some form or another. While I have always loved reading biographies, I find particular interest in people whose names I know but whose lives remain a mystery to me. While the name Thomas Edison has always been synonymous with the invention of the lightbulb, there is much more to the man’s life. Pulitzer-prize winning author, Edmund Morris, takes the reader through the life and times of this most complex man. While the lightbulb was surely one of his most well-known inventions, Edison was always thinking up new and exciting things to better the world. Averaging one US patent every 12 days of his adult life, Edison was passionate in his ventures, which seemed to change drastically every decade. By dividing the book into parts that loosely depict these scientific ventures, Morris explores the attention to detail that Edison undertook. He was keen to stay ahead of the trends and use his imagination to bring these ideas to life. With little formal scientific training, Edison baffled many around him with the detail and intricacy of his inventions. He proved to be not only an inventor, but also a businessman, manufacturer, family man, salesperson, and critique of others in the domain. What Morris explores is that Edison was also highly opinionated when it came to his interests, not caring who he upset or their notoriety in the world. Morris pairs this with Edison’s extreme deafness, which led to many interesting interactions with others, as well as curious steps taken throughout the experimental process. In a book that is full of Edison’s discoveries and advancements, the reader will discover just how much of an impact the man had on the world, and all because of his imagination paired with a determination to succeed. Recommended to those who love learning about all things scientific and innovation-related, as well as for the reader whose passion is in biographical tomes. There is so much to learn about Thomas Edison, as shown in this thorough biography. Edmund Morris, award-winning author, does a fabulous job amassing a great deal of information in this singe tome, telling the wonderful aspects of Edison’s life, while constantly reminding the reader of his independence. Morris tackles the book in a series of parts, dividing Edison’s explorations in decade chunks. This is highly effective, as it gives the reader some context and allows the themes to effectively divide the book. Within each part, Morris explores the scores of inventions and plotting that Edison did, linking different decades together with ease. However, as if in a response to a quote by Edison’s daughter found in the introduction, Morris sheds a great deal of light on the man behind the inventions, offering up a great deal of raw truths about that man’s life and personal connections with other, rather than simply the inventor whose made ideas spilled out so readily. In an oddity that I have not seen in other biographies, Morris works in reverse chronology with these aforementioned parts of the book, beginning with the 1920s and working backwards. This proves to be somewhat confusing for the reader used to linear development of a person’s life, with children and grandchildren appearing in the beginning and turning to babies or non-existent throughout. I have not looked to see what others thought of this technique, but it seemed to work well for me. I picked up quickly on names and locales, looking to see when they entered the narrative later (earlier?) in the book. Each part stands as its own massive chapter, with smaller vignettes within them to keep the reader intrigued and not overwhelmed. Morris shows his superior writing style by presenting a great deal of technical information in an easy to digest format and keeping the story intriguing throughout. I have decided to read a little more about Edison and his life-long friendship with Henry Ford in another tome, but felt this was a wonderful start. Kudos, Mr. Morris, for a wonderful biography of a sensational man. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    As a boy growing up there was a time when I read the biographies of famous persons. The Wright Brothers. Alexander Graham Bell. And of course Thomas Alva Edison. The books that I read then were geared towards a child and were light and not too technical. Edmund Morris's biography is very deep, extensively researched, and at times technical. Edison was much more than the inventor of the first practical incandescent lamp, phonograph, and motion pictures. This tome brings to life the man I did not As a boy growing up there was a time when I read the biographies of famous persons. The Wright Brothers. Alexander Graham Bell. And of course Thomas Alva Edison. The books that I read then were geared towards a child and were light and not too technical. Edmund Morris's biography is very deep, extensively researched, and at times technical. Edison was much more than the inventor of the first practical incandescent lamp, phonograph, and motion pictures. This tome brings to life the man I did not know. The botanist. The miner. The founder of nearly 250 companies. The husband and father. As many other reviewers have noted Edmund Morris presents this biography in reverse order. That is it starts with his death in 1931. Each subsequent chapter is a previous decade and subject. Botany - 1920 - 1929, Defense - 1910 - 1919, Chemistry - 1900 - 1909, Magnetism - 1890 - 1899, Light - 1880 - 1889, Sound - 1870 - 1879, Telegraphy - 1860 - 1869, Natural Philosophy - 1847 - 1859. I found this somewhat disconcerting. For instance in an early chapter he already knew Henry Ford and Benjamin Goodrich. In the next chapter he meets Ford for the first time and Goodrich is unknown. Also, Edison had a life long interest in sound. It was not just a passing interest in one decade and then he moved on to a different field. One of things I learned was that Edison made up for his deafness by sometimes biting on an object. As a child Edison was a bit of a misfit in school. Much of his learning came from being taught by his mother. There was an instance in his childhood where he went swimming with a friend. The friend went under. Edison waited awhile and when his friend didn't come up Edison went home. I sometimes wondered what would have happened if Edison had grown up in today's society. He would probably be diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and medicated with something like ritalin. Instead he started his first business when he was twelve years old (selling candy and fruit on a train), patented 1,093 inventions, and brought light into the world. Despite his genius and all of his accomplishments Edison was human and Edmund Morris helps us understand the man.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    Edison by Edmund Morris was a comprehensive and meticulously researched biography of Thomas Alva Edison. While Morris is one of our most esteemed biographers, this was a book that he chose to write in reverse chronological order, why I'm not sure, and due to his sudden death last year I'm not sure anyone can answer that question, but it was disconcerting. While I must admit that as a child I would leap to the end of the book once I had a good idea of who the characters were and what the plot was Edison by Edmund Morris was a comprehensive and meticulously researched biography of Thomas Alva Edison. While Morris is one of our most esteemed biographers, this was a book that he chose to write in reverse chronological order, why I'm not sure, and due to his sudden death last year I'm not sure anyone can answer that question, but it was disconcerting. While I must admit that as a child I would leap to the end of the book once I had a good idea of who the characters were and what the plot was, I managed to overcome that temptation. Well, Edison was my childhood fantasy restored; I started at the end of Thomas Edison's life and made my way backward, a decade at a time. While some people chose to start at the end of the book and read each decade forward, I read it as written hoping to understand how this enhanced the biography of this most amazing man. Perhaps it was to have his two greatest inventions, the phonograph and the electric light bulb highlighted and explored toward the end of the book for a greater impact, but I'm not sure. I just know that Edmund Morris will be missed. "Everything on earth depends on will. I never had an idea in my life. I've got no imagination. I never dream. My so-called inventions already existed in the environment--I took them out. I've created nothing. Nobody does There's no such thing as an idea being brain-born; everything comes from the outside." -- Thomas Alva Edison "It's the way the world goes--the young push ahead and do things, and the old stand back. I hope I'll always be with the young." -- Thomas Alva Edison, 1912 "You do not know what the Edison electric light in a house is until you have seen the pendant globes, spreading uninterrupted radiance on all beneath and around. There was a merry company, full of life and triumph. An Italian gentleman sang a Neapolitan impromptu to his own accompaniment. Young ladies whirled in the waltz. . . .We went down to the depot, and as the train came thundering by to bring us to the city, the jingle of sleigh bells rang over the snow from near the Professor's house, for there is no pleasure at Menlo Park like sleighing by electric lights when the public has gone away." -- The New York Herald, 1881

  4. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    I do not agree with the decision to present Edison’s life in reverse chronology. Maybe I’ll try another biography some day.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    There are certain conventions and norms that one expects when writing a biography. The biography is either going to be written chronologically or (less frequently) thematically. Those are the approaches that people know and are familiar. To do it any other way requires a skilled writer and a supportive editor/publisher. Edmund Morris is a skilled writer. This is the fourth book that I have read by him. The first three (on Roosevelt) all received 5 stars from me and one earned Morris the Pulitzer There are certain conventions and norms that one expects when writing a biography. The biography is either going to be written chronologically or (less frequently) thematically. Those are the approaches that people know and are familiar. To do it any other way requires a skilled writer and a supportive editor/publisher. Edmund Morris is a skilled writer. This is the fourth book that I have read by him. The first three (on Roosevelt) all received 5 stars from me and one earned Morris the Pulitzer Prize. Morris chose to break convention and write his biography largely in reverse chronological order. This is either a stroke of genius or idiocy. Unfortunately, in this case it was the later. By tracing his life from the end to the beginning, one misses key aspects of certain event. The backstory that helps you understand the significance of an event is covered either briefly or not at all. Early in the book you feel dropped into a situation---for example, the electrocution of the elephant Topsy. As the book is written in reverse order, you encounter the elephant’s death without understanding the rivalry between AC and DC power. You do not know about the battles with Tesla or Edison’s being forced out of his own company. These events are told in earlier--- I mean later---chapters. As such Morris is forced to spend more time setting the scenario of Topsy’s death. It also means that when you learn about issues that occurred earlier in Edison’s life, you sit there wishing that you had that perspective when you read about the later event. This was a frequent experience. Morris spent more time than necessary covering the back story of events at the end of Edison’s life, that you learn about at the end of the book. When you learn about the antecedent events it is not an ah-ha moment, but rather, “I wish I knew that when I he covered a later period of Edison’s life.” The end of the book often felt as if he was foreshadowing events that he had already covered in great detail---“this was the first time he considered mining” or he was told that if he ever experienced a full solar eclipse that it would last just minutes. By the time I finished the book, I had grown convinced that the editor made a mistake and put the chapters in the wrong order! Yes, Morris (who recently passed away) was one of the greats---but his editors or publishers should have told him no. They should have said, “We know you won a Pulitzer, but this does not work.” His editors and publishers failed him. This book had the promise of being very good, but structurally it failed. The editors and publishers deserve additional scorn for the way they handled the audio book. I think they realized that having the book written in reverse chronology would be difficult to follow, so they kept each chapter in the audio book tied to a decade of his life. This means that each audio chapter is up to 6 hours in length. If you accidentally forward or rewind an audio chapter, it is extremely difficult and time consuming to find you place.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Casey Cep

    I reviewed this biography of Thomas Edison for "The New Yorker." You can read the review, which takes into account some other writing about him, here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... I reviewed this biography of Thomas Edison for "The New Yorker." You can read the review, which takes into account some other writing about him, here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    “I would say to one particular atom in me—call it atom No. 4320—‘Go and be part of a rose for a while.’ All the atoms could be sent off to become parts of different minerals, plants, and other substances. Then, if by just pressing a little push button they could be called together again, they would bring back their experiences while they were parts of those different substances, and I would have the benefit of the knowledge.” Morris, Edmund. Edison. P. 495. (2019) Edmund Morris’s biography of Tho “I would say to one particular atom in me—call it atom No. 4320—‘Go and be part of a rose for a while.’ All the atoms could be sent off to become parts of different minerals, plants, and other substances. Then, if by just pressing a little push button they could be called together again, they would bring back their experiences while they were parts of those different substances, and I would have the benefit of the knowledge.” Morris, Edmund. Edison. P. 495. (2019) Edmund Morris’s biography of Thomas Edison brings to life all sides of the genius’s character. His lifelong curiosity about how things work, his ability to dream up new devices, his ability to focus deeply on achieving his goal, and his legendary capacity for hard work. Readers will learn not only about Edison’s many inventions, his incredible number of patents, but more importantly how his work has changed they way we live. Morris chooses to tell the story of Edison’s life in reverse. Beginning with his diabetes, stomach ailments, and the severe hearing loss he dealt with all his life, Morris chronicles Edison’s business success and failures through the years. As Edison’s physical health wained, his strong desire to continue finding solutions to problems maintained its dominant hold on his life. A man more at home in his laboratory than at home with wife and children. He was married twice and had children from two marriages. His first wife died at age 28 leaving him a widower with 3 young children. Edison’s early years were marked by people mistaking his power of concentration or day dreaming for slowness or an inability to comprehend daily life as others do. Educated at home by his mother, due to difficulty fitting in at school, Edison is in large part that rare breed of self educated man. Moving through the biography, readers will see Edison’s ability through reading to gather information about whatever area he was interested in whether it is electricity, mining, or botany. A true life long learner. - [ ] If you read nothing else in this biography, read Morris’s Epilogue. For in it, he evokes the tremendous sense of loss felt through out the United States at Edison’s death. A sense of loss felt only in my lifetime with the death of President Kennedy. A brilliant writer and biographer Morris is now lost to us as well having died in May 2019.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Romero

    Edmund Morris is the author of the three Theodore Roosevelt biographies as well as the really good Ronald Reagan one. I am very sad to say he passed away just this past May. Thomas Edison was a driven man. He was constantly inventing and patenting new ideas or as he would say, he brought them out in the open, they were always there. He had a new invention about every 11 days, with over 1,000 in his lifetime. Best known for bringing us into the light, he was a man with a singular need to invent, to Edmund Morris is the author of the three Theodore Roosevelt biographies as well as the really good Ronald Reagan one. I am very sad to say he passed away just this past May. Thomas Edison was a driven man. He was constantly inventing and patenting new ideas or as he would say, he brought them out in the open, they were always there. He had a new invention about every 11 days, with over 1,000 in his lifetime. Best known for bringing us into the light, he was a man with a singular need to invent, to experiment, to push the boundaries of what was known. He was a man who needed little sleep or food and expected those around him to work the same punishing hours as he did.  He did not suffer fools lightly and like a lot of geniuses who are laser-focused on what they see as their calling, his family life suffered. We see the husband, the father, the friend. A man who was headstrong. He started 250 businesses, so you can imagine he might have been a distant father. He made no secret that he thought his children were lacking in every way.  I have read many biographies of Edison, most of which centered on his works and patents. I don't think he was a deliberately cold man, he was a man possessed with a need to create, to push boundaries and with that type of mind, relationships and family take a back seat. The research that went into this work is astounding. This is a book I will have and re-read for a long time.  NetGalley/Random House (October 22, 2019)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynndell

    More than just an inventor! Thanks to Amazon Vine, NetGally and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Edison by Edmund Morris. This eight hundred page book is an interesting read and engaged me easily with the history of Thomas Alva Edison. This fascinating man was so much more than just an inventor and the author conducted extensive research to bring Edison to life for us! I just wish the book had an index for research accessibility because this is the main reason for wan More than just an inventor! Thanks to Amazon Vine, NetGally and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Edison by Edmund Morris. This eight hundred page book is an interesting read and engaged me easily with the history of Thomas Alva Edison. This fascinating man was so much more than just an inventor and the author conducted extensive research to bring Edison to life for us! I just wish the book had an index for research accessibility because this is the main reason for wanting this biography of Thomas Alva Edison, using it for research that our library students have to conduct to complete their annual research paper. All-in-all, a great read because the author has taken the facts about Edison and made them appealing and compelling!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill Powers

    I read Edison because 1) I have an interest in T. Edison and; 2) I thoroughly enjoyed the Edmund Morris Theodore Roosevelt trilogy. I've seen several reviews that criticized the reverse chronological order style that the author chose to use. I didn't particularly like the reverse chronology, but it wasn't that big a deal for me. Unfortunately, I think the book could have done with a stronger editing job. There was a bit too much fluff included for me. That said, I'm glad I read Edison and did en I read Edison because 1) I have an interest in T. Edison and; 2) I thoroughly enjoyed the Edmund Morris Theodore Roosevelt trilogy. I've seen several reviews that criticized the reverse chronological order style that the author chose to use. I didn't particularly like the reverse chronology, but it wasn't that big a deal for me. Unfortunately, I think the book could have done with a stronger editing job. There was a bit too much fluff included for me. That said, I'm glad I read Edison and did enjoy. I came away with a much better understanding of Edison the person vs Edison the genius inventor.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Edmund Morris was a wonderful author. This was his final book and was published posthumously. Morris and/or his editor made a very controversial decision with this book. All of the events of Thomas Edison's life are presented in reverse chronology. This technique has been used before in cinema to great effect like in Memento or Irreversible. In both of those, the reversal was key to the narrative and necessary to make them work. Why...OH WHY...was Edison in reverse chronology??!! There was nothing Edmund Morris was a wonderful author. This was his final book and was published posthumously. Morris and/or his editor made a very controversial decision with this book. All of the events of Thomas Edison's life are presented in reverse chronology. This technique has been used before in cinema to great effect like in Memento or Irreversible. In both of those, the reversal was key to the narrative and necessary to make them work. Why...OH WHY...was Edison in reverse chronology??!! There was nothing particularly cyclical about his life. He turned into a much worse asshole later so maybe Morris wanted the reader to like him because he got nicer as the book went along? I literally have no idea. It made reading it such a needless chore. Here's my impression of most of the book: "And then this guy did something and I think we all know what that means. Anyways, since his wife died he was very sad and then invented something and accidentally hurt himself just like earlier, you remember, right?" WHAT...THE...FUCK. No, I don't remember, because I haven't read about it yet. I don't know which characters are important and which one's aren't. Oh that other guy just died? Who the fuck was he? Did his death effect Edison? Who the fuck knows!? I have a friend who got frustrated and just read the book backwards. I refused to do that because that is not how the book was presented. That would be like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure straight through. That's not what the author wanted you to do so I don't do it. Such a sad swan song for him to go out on.

  12. 4 out of 5

    J.R.

    Morris, who died in 2019, was a distinguished historian who wrote outstanding biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Beethoven. This book is in-depth, running more than 700 pages with an extensive bibliography and notes. While there's much information on Edison's eccentricities and an overwhelming amount of technical information on his more than 1,000 inventions, I was disappointed to find Morris had virtually nothing to say about Edison's time in my home area, Pennsylvania's anthra Morris, who died in 2019, was a distinguished historian who wrote outstanding biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Beethoven. This book is in-depth, running more than 700 pages with an extensive bibliography and notes. While there's much information on Edison's eccentricities and an overwhelming amount of technical information on his more than 1,000 inventions, I was disappointed to find Morris had virtually nothing to say about Edison's time in my home area, Pennsylvania's anthracite coal region. At the invitation of a group of potential investors, Edison came to my hometown, Shamokin, Northumberland County, in 1882. He took up residence in town and supervised construction of a power plant. He also licensed an electric company in Sunbury, the county seat, with other investors. Our county seat was the world's first community to be electrified via a three-wire coal-fired plant on July 4, 1883. On Sept. 22, Edison returned to Shamokin to switch on the power for Shamokin. On that date, St. Edward's Catholic Church became the first church in the world to be lighted by electricity. Edison went on to license electric plants in other Pennsylvania communities, including Mount Carmel, Ashland, Pottsville, Williamsport and Harrisburg. I found no mention of any of this in the Morris biography. The only reference I found to our communities was in a list of agreements with municipalities which included 1,600 lights for Shamokin and 500 for Sunbury.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Ye gads, NO!!! There was a creative new angle for Morris in penning the life of Edison (see end of review) but not the one he actually took. No, this just doesn’t work. I’ve read an occasional non-chronological, thematically organized biography. Where it’s not intended to be an introductory biography, and may be somewhat professionally targeted, such as Heiko Oberman’s Luther bio, it can work well. I have never read a reverse chronological biography, and now, I’ll never try another. First, this is t Ye gads, NO!!! There was a creative new angle for Morris in penning the life of Edison (see end of review) but not the one he actually took. No, this just doesn’t work. I’ve read an occasional non-chronological, thematically organized biography. Where it’s not intended to be an introductory biography, and may be somewhat professionally targeted, such as Heiko Oberman’s Luther bio, it can work well. I have never read a reverse chronological biography, and now, I’ll never try another. First, this is the same Edmund Morris who invented a fictional character for his Reagan bio and claimed it was because he couldn’t grasp Reagan. That would seem to be a lie, and that idea mainly just a literary conceit as is the reverse chronology here. Critics slammed Morris for that. Speaking of? You won’t see any blurbs — none at all — on the back cover here. Yes, I know he died earlier this year. Nonetheless, this isn’t a novel dependent on the author’s name, and even if there were some degree of rush, galley proofs would have been ready by May. So, either Random House quailed at sending it to Kirkus, NY Review of Books, etc., or else it did and they slammed it. That also doesn’t look good. As for the book itself, you could do as one other low-star reviewer suggests and read it in normal chronological order, ie, reverse chapter order. However, some placement-early chapters may refer forward, or is that backward, to late-placement, but earlier-chronology, chapters. Second problem, and one that an “artiste” biographer like Morris should never have stepped into, if he is indeed such an “artiste.” Lives don’t divide on precise decadal lines, and certainly not “one decade = one theme.” It looks like he tried to take a thematic approach, a la Oberman to Luther, and straitjacket it inside a chronological format. And that on top of doing the reverse chronology. The sad thing? I’d never before read much about Edison’s personal life, other than his hanging out with Ford and Firestone. I didn’t know he was married twice. Nor that his namesake eldest son from his first marriage was a wastrel. Nor that he, and to some degree all the children of the first marriage, were written off by not only Edison’s second wife, but Edison himself. It seems like there was potential for a HUGE biography of Edison the person first, inventor second. And Morris blew it. What I have learned about Edison the person is the only reason I didn’t one-star this book. Maybe somebody will come along and do the bio Morris could and should have done.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Camille Calman

    I received free uncorrected proofs of this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I had previously read and enjoyed one of Edmund Morris’s books on Theodore Roosevelt, so I was confident that I would enjoy this book (Morris’s last – he died in May 2019). I was correct; the book is well-researched, written in a lively, readable style, and does a reasonably good job of explaining scientific concepts to lay people. I was really impressed by the author’s ability to convey how much of Edison’s success (w I received free uncorrected proofs of this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I had previously read and enjoyed one of Edmund Morris’s books on Theodore Roosevelt, so I was confident that I would enjoy this book (Morris’s last – he died in May 2019). I was correct; the book is well-researched, written in a lively, readable style, and does a reasonably good job of explaining scientific concepts to lay people. I was really impressed by the author’s ability to convey how much of Edison’s success (which is what we remember today) rested on extensive trial and error, learning from multiple failures, and obsessive workaholism. My one complaint about the book is that for some reason, Morris has elected to tell the story backwards. We begin with Edison’s death, then travel successively through the 1920s, 1910s, etc., back to his birth in 1847. Within each decade, we move forward in time, but at the end of the 1920s, we suddenly go from 1929 to the next chapter, which begins 19 years earlier in 1910. The effect is choppy. Edison, and the author, are constantly having to remember and refer to events that, for the reader, haven’t happened yet. Friendships or business relationships end in one chapter and begin in the next. Edison is married to one woman in 1899, and then – a page later – it’s 1880 and he’s married to a different woman. I’m not sure what possessed Morris to structure the book this way; perhaps he did so because the most interesting inventions happen when Edison is fairly young, and in a strictly chronological book, that would have happened early and the rest of the book might have seemed anti-climactic. But it comes off as gimmicky and not very reader-friendly.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Margery Osborne

    I don't know what possessed the author to invert his narrative but the end result was to make this biography of Edison a complete slog. seriously I don't think I achieved any insight into Edison or his process. Would it have been different if the story of his childhood and youth came first? Maybe but after forcing myself through all those pages I really wasn't in the mood to rethink or reread the earlier pages. I have had some personal experience hanging with 'inventors' and I do know it takes m I don't know what possessed the author to invert his narrative but the end result was to make this biography of Edison a complete slog. seriously I don't think I achieved any insight into Edison or his process. Would it have been different if the story of his childhood and youth came first? Maybe but after forcing myself through all those pages I really wasn't in the mood to rethink or reread the earlier pages. I have had some personal experience hanging with 'inventors' and I do know it takes more than having a 'good idea' to engender a technological revolution like Edison's inventions have. Contrasting this book to Walter Isaacson's bio of Steve Job's--the later was so much more insightful about the man and also his creations and vision really. I was disappointed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rich Gatlin

    Edmund Morris has an uncanny ability to put you in the world he's writing about. I'm a huge fan of his Roosevelt biography, so I was very excited to receive this book from Goodreads as an advance copy ahead of publication. It did not disappoint. The format is unique, it is written from the end of his life to the beginning in reverse order. At first I was unsure but it turned out to be one of the best parts of the book. Normally I dread reading the first part of any biography as it's a slog throu Edmund Morris has an uncanny ability to put you in the world he's writing about. I'm a huge fan of his Roosevelt biography, so I was very excited to receive this book from Goodreads as an advance copy ahead of publication. It did not disappoint. The format is unique, it is written from the end of his life to the beginning in reverse order. At first I was unsure but it turned out to be one of the best parts of the book. Normally I dread reading the first part of any biography as it's a slog through the childhood sections to get to the part you really want to read. This method got directly to the most interesting part of this incredible man's life. Edison is a fascinating biography due to the subject matter, but Mr. Morris' skill takes this book to a different level. Highly recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    The thing everyone writes about this biography is that Morris wrote it backwards. It starts with his death and each chapter is the previous decade of his life. I liked this choice the further I got into the book, as it sets up Edison's greatest inventions (phonograph and light bulb) as a climax to the book. So much of his life afterwards was built around these two things, and the book deconstructs all of it as we read further into the book while moving earlier into his life. It creates a tension The thing everyone writes about this biography is that Morris wrote it backwards. It starts with his death and each chapter is the previous decade of his life. I liked this choice the further I got into the book, as it sets up Edison's greatest inventions (phonograph and light bulb) as a climax to the book. So much of his life afterwards was built around these two things, and the book deconstructs all of it as we read further into the book while moving earlier into his life. It creates a tension and excitement when you get to the moments, 3/4 of the way through the biography. I also enjoyed how this book demystified Edison's scientific process. It was less "A-ha!" moments and more 18 hours days in his lab. It also shows the magic people felt from his inventions. They could hear audio recordings of famous people or loved ones after their deaths. They could easily see in their homes after dark without gas torches or candles. These were huge moments in the world, and Morris does a great job walking us through them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Spence

    What an impressive man, with over 1100 patents in a variety of fields. His National Park site in Orange NJ is one of the most inspirational of the many visited. The book is organized by decade in reverse order; for what reason I do not know. It made for some interesting surprises however. The cube of copper sitting in the corner gathering dust is explained in a later chapter (earlier in time) to have been a prize from a scientific academy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael Mudlaff

    I would recommend reading this book if you appreciate biographies or have any interest in Edison. However, the author’s decision to write this biography in reverse historical chronology, with no explanation is baffling to me. I dare say that people who read biographies or history prefer to read it from beginning to end - whether they know something of the story or not. Midway through the book it was just plain annoying. By the end I was wondering when the explanation would come. What was the poi I would recommend reading this book if you appreciate biographies or have any interest in Edison. However, the author’s decision to write this biography in reverse historical chronology, with no explanation is baffling to me. I dare say that people who read biographies or history prefer to read it from beginning to end - whether they know something of the story or not. Midway through the book it was just plain annoying. By the end I was wondering when the explanation would come. What was the point? None that I can tell. So as well written and insightful as Edison is, you spend the entire read learning about people in his life whose origin in the timeline you have to wait later to know. Frustrating. If you remember who they were later in Edison’s life anyway - if that makes sense. Which it only does if you read a book backwards. I guess. Put it the right way and it’s five stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne Morgan

    Thomas Alva Edison, known today primarily as the inventor of the lightbulb, spent his life researching, experimenting, and inventing devices in nearly every scientific field available to him over the course of his life. Edmund Morris' new biography takes a thoroughly-researched, detailed look into these aspects of Edison's life, hoping to leave readers (perhaps) with the sense of Edison as a Renaissance Man who unceasingly explored the world around him. The reader learns of Edison's tireless eff Thomas Alva Edison, known today primarily as the inventor of the lightbulb, spent his life researching, experimenting, and inventing devices in nearly every scientific field available to him over the course of his life. Edmund Morris' new biography takes a thoroughly-researched, detailed look into these aspects of Edison's life, hoping to leave readers (perhaps) with the sense of Edison as a Renaissance Man who unceasingly explored the world around him. The reader learns of Edison's tireless efforts to perfect phonograph recordings (although deaf himself), his proficiency with Morse code, as well as the creation of inventions that, even after Morris described them, I had no idea what they were for or what they did. That is one of the issues I had with Edison. In his push to show the reader all of the work Edison did, Morris overwhelms the reader with scientific information in some places and underwhelms the reader in others. The main problem I had with Edison however, is that it is written backwards. Starting with his death in 1931, each part of the book covers about ten years of Edison's life, retreating backwards in time until he's born in 1847. This often made the reading choppy and the biography's progression difficult to follow. Partnerships, inventions, lawsuits, and personal relationships end before they begin and often Morris has to refer the reader to later parts in the book to cover the beginning of something he's now talking about ending. If there was a reason for writing the book that way, I couldn't tell what it was- except a desire to experiment and do something different. In this case different was certainly memorable, but not, for me, in a good way. Glimpses of Edison the man manage to show through Edison the scientist or Edison the businessman but those glimpses don't give the reader much of an impression of who he was or what made him the way he was. The impressions we do get show us a perfectionist, a tyrant, and a control freak. Meeting Edison like this at the end of his life, I have a hard time knowing if I didn't like this book because I didn't like Edison as a person, and had no investment in who he would become or what he would do with his life because I saw it from the end on, or if it was the book itself. Not a book I'd recommend for any but the most fervent of Edison admirers, and even then, I strongly recommend reading the book from end to beginning to try and make some sense out of it. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  21. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    I loved Morris's biography of Teddy Roosevelt, so I had high hopes for this book. He's still a skilled writer, so there were smooth sentences and nice turns of phrase here or there. But the book was overwhelmed by the technical details of his discoveries (hundreds of them). I liked those details. But there was relatively very little space given to his personal life, his thoughts, his character. Most of all, the book went through his life backwards. Seriously, it started with his last decade. The I loved Morris's biography of Teddy Roosevelt, so I had high hopes for this book. He's still a skilled writer, so there were smooth sentences and nice turns of phrase here or there. But the book was overwhelmed by the technical details of his discoveries (hundreds of them). I liked those details. But there was relatively very little space given to his personal life, his thoughts, his character. Most of all, the book went through his life backwards. Seriously, it started with his last decade. Then to his second to last decade. Not only was it a bit jarring, but it ruined some of the poignancy to hear the ending of relationships before I knew what they'd done together. I actually read the second half of the book out of order, and it was much more enjoyable that way. Oh well. Edison himself was a workaholic jerk, actually. He had an impressive work ethic and creative mind. But he was a bad human being. I don't just mean he worked hard. For example, his teenage daughter got small pox while on a trip and couldn't travel. So he left her behind with one of his staff to help and went home. Despite being urged to talk to her, he not only didn't visit her while she recovered (and found she had facial scars), he didn't even stop long enough to write her a letter. He didn't even ask her to come home and she was so hurt she didn't leave that country for years. Yeah--jerk.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Kovacs

    This book is unusual in that the beginning of the biography starts with Edison's death and then proceeds backwards through the decades of life. For a subject such as Edison where "progress" is the essence of the story this makes it almost impossible to understand. People and inventions pop up and then go away with no clear sense of the magnificent importance of what is being discussed. Relationship with Tesla and controversy with Westinghouse is barely mentioned and when it is, it is difficult t This book is unusual in that the beginning of the biography starts with Edison's death and then proceeds backwards through the decades of life. For a subject such as Edison where "progress" is the essence of the story this makes it almost impossible to understand. People and inventions pop up and then go away with no clear sense of the magnificent importance of what is being discussed. Relationship with Tesla and controversy with Westinghouse is barely mentioned and when it is, it is difficult to place into contest. Extremely difficult to follow, but writing is good. If you are to read this, I would suggest starting with the last chapter and read backwards from there.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Author Edmund Morris is difficult to anticipate; his works can be truly excellent or surprisingly unreadable. He is always creative and so I look forward to reading his work, never quite sure what I will be receiving. EDISON was a disappointment to me because I hoped to learn more about the subject and enjoy Morris’ work. Unfortunately, the author tried a few gimmicks that interfered with both objectives. The book is organized chronologically backwards. It doesn’t just begin with Edison’s death Author Edmund Morris is difficult to anticipate; his works can be truly excellent or surprisingly unreadable. He is always creative and so I look forward to reading his work, never quite sure what I will be receiving. EDISON was a disappointment to me because I hoped to learn more about the subject and enjoy Morris’ work. Unfortunately, the author tried a few gimmicks that interfered with both objectives. The book is organized chronologically backwards. It doesn’t just begin with Edison’s death but each chapter moves from his old age through to his youth. I didn’t feel as though I was building knowledge of Edison, nor did I feel as though I was peeling away layers to reveal him. It just didn’t work for me. Edison was just unlikeable; perhaps that is what Morris ultimately felt for his subject. I don’t know. The author died last year. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Craig Pearson

    Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. This is a very detailed look at the life and foibles of Thomas Edison. Most people know only general facts of Ediso's genius, such as the light bulb and motion pictures. They do not know about his failures and family life. Edison was very complicated and most, even his family, did not understand him fully. This book has many technical details about his inventions and patents but they are presented by Morris in a very readab Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. This is a very detailed look at the life and foibles of Thomas Edison. Most people know only general facts of Ediso's genius, such as the light bulb and motion pictures. They do not know about his failures and family life. Edison was very complicated and most, even his family, did not understand him fully. This book has many technical details about his inventions and patents but they are presented by Morris in a very readable way. The biggest problem with the book is the odd timeline used. Edison's life is given in reverse chronologic order. That may work in a fictional story but not in a biography. Knowing how events unfold before they begin is just wrong.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annette Geiss

    A comprehensive tome on Thomas Alva Edison. Admittedly, I skimmed much of it, as it is so filled with exhaustive accounts of him and his life. I learned copious details about this rare genius of a man. Kudos to Edmund Morris for his extensive research. Thanks you Netgalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karen Troutman

    I received this book as an electronic resource from Net Galley Noted: I am not a great history buff. For the true follower of Edison this would be great book. I however, found it exhaustive and skimmed some of the details. Not one of my favorite books but it well researched and written.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Good Biography on Thomas Alva Edison I enjoyed this biography about Thomas Edison. I learned a lot about him, his inventions and his family. I know some of Thomas Edison 's life but I didn't know enough to not be confused 😕about how the book presented his life. It begins when he is elderly and like to die soon. Then it goes steadily backward until he is a child and at last dead. This caused me to be confused who the children were and what level the age was as well as who their mother was. It also Good Biography on Thomas Alva Edison I enjoyed this biography about Thomas Edison. I learned a lot about him, his inventions and his family. I know some of Thomas Edison 's life but I didn't know enough to not be confused 😕about how the book presented his life. It begins when he is elderly and like to die soon. Then it goes steadily backward until he is a child and at last dead. This caused me to be confused who the children were and what level the age was as well as who their mother was. It also makes me confused about the inventions Edison created at what time and the author having to provide background knowledge that the reader wasn't introduced to before. The history of Edison backwards makes his life and inventions unclear. One dad story that touched me was how Edison basically failed to raise and nurture his childhood from his first marriage. As adults he rejected them as they floundered and suffered. His second was mainly chosen for lust, she was 17, and unable to raise his kids from the first marriage. Edison himself was more focused on his inventions. Interesting life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) A good read, but one that could have been better. Admittedly, I didn't know a lot about the man, so this book does a good job of offering good insight into the man. Like many famous folks, there was good and bad about the man. Hard-working, and did much to advance human development. Interesting that Edison felt that the phonograph was his most important invention, rather than the lightbulb, but both continue to define humanity. His family life was difficult, especially when his sons (Audiobook) A good read, but one that could have been better. Admittedly, I didn't know a lot about the man, so this book does a good job of offering good insight into the man. Like many famous folks, there was good and bad about the man. Hard-working, and did much to advance human development. Interesting that Edison felt that the phonograph was his most important invention, rather than the lightbulb, but both continue to define humanity. His family life was difficult, especially when his sons struggled to find their way in the shadow of their famous father. Yet, I had an issue with the organization of the work. The author decided to go with a reverse life perspective, starting with the ending of Edison's life and working backwards to his origins. That in and of itself is not always bad, but it did make the narrative disjointed, and it might work better for someone who knew more about Edison than I did. However, for those who are reading to really learn about the man, it can make it hard to follow for the facts. The work is generally positive in its descriptions of the man, and while it alludes some to his struggles with former collaborators/employees, Morris doesn't really discuss those interactions, when they offer a lot of insight into the man. Worth a read, but maybe not the best read/organized work about Edison. The reader does a decent job with the material, but doesn't add or detract from the work.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Forsyth

    I think I like the concept of presenting a biography in reverse order more than the actual execution here. There’s lots of fascinating insight, and Edison definitely comes alive, but it doesn’t feel like the book was written with this express intent. There’s too many moments of confusion that could have been smoothed out if Mr. Morris had lived to take another pass at this. As it is, it feels like a gimmick, as other reviewers have noted. But I think this idea has potential to better understand I think I like the concept of presenting a biography in reverse order more than the actual execution here. There’s lots of fascinating insight, and Edison definitely comes alive, but it doesn’t feel like the book was written with this express intent. There’s too many moments of confusion that could have been smoothed out if Mr. Morris had lived to take another pass at this. As it is, it feels like a gimmick, as other reviewers have noted. But I think this idea has potential to better understand someone about which much is assumed but less is actually known (as is certainly the case of Mr. Edison). For all that, I still found lots of inspiration here.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Thank you to Netgalley for the free e-book in exchange for a review. I really enjoyed this book in the beginning - or should I say at the end? This biography is written Benjamin Button's style, starting with Edison's death and then going backwards. I found Edison's micromanagement and interest in the tiniest details of his company fascinating. Who knew that Edison spent so much effort to find a domestic plant to make into rubber? This book's unique format made it so that I was fully immersed in Ed Thank you to Netgalley for the free e-book in exchange for a review. I really enjoyed this book in the beginning - or should I say at the end? This biography is written Benjamin Button's style, starting with Edison's death and then going backwards. I found Edison's micromanagement and interest in the tiniest details of his company fascinating. Who knew that Edison spent so much effort to find a domestic plant to make into rubber? This book's unique format made it so that I was fully immersed in Edison's later innovations. This made for quick page turning at first, but as I continued reading I became confused in the timelines and ultimately lost interest. Edmund Morris did a massive amount of research. This biography is perfect for someone who wants to know everything about Edison's business. Unfortunately, I learned enough in the first couple hundred pages and stopped reading. Maybe I'll pick it up later and finish.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.